Adam Cartwright's would-be bride: ''It just didn't work out''

"I figured they would have to kill me off," said Kathie Browne.

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No matter how perfect a show or a movie might be, it's still really fun to play "What could've been?" Once something is put to film, it's pretty much cemented, but prior to that, really anything can happen. Casting, specifically, is one part of production that lends itself to the most "What if" questions. What if Magnum P.I. never got picked up, and Tom Selleck was available to play Indiana Jones? What if the producers were happy with Eric Stoltz's performance as Marty McFly in Back to The Future? These alternate universes are fun to inhabit for a few moments, even if we're happy with the final product.

A small-screen example of what could've been was all the turmoil surrounding Bonanza in 1964. The year prior, actress Kathie Browne was introduced onto the show as Laura Dayton, a newly-widowed love interest for Adam Cartwright. Technically, it was a reintroduction for Browne, as she'd formerly made two other guest appearances as different characters. But there was a long-term plan for Laura Dayton, and, as Browne describes in a 1964 interview with The Kansas City Star, that plan quickly changed. 

"The long-range plan was twofold," Browne said. "An opportunity was to be afforded Pernell Roberts, who played Adam, to be relieved of appearing every week, if he so desired. And to keep the number of males in the Cartwright family at the same level, a cousin, Guy Williams, was to be introduced." 

Anyone familiar with the history of Bonanza will recall that Pernell Roberts very much did desire to be relieved of his cowboy duties. The actor felt he was above the material, and publicly badmouthed the show that made him a recognizable commodity. Rather than contribute to the show in a way that would elevate the writing, he instead chose to bash Bonanza to any journalist who would listen.

An NBC press release from '63 stated: "Producer Dortort feels that coming up with an Eve for Adam will enable the show to take fresh, new directions." However, a fierce letter-writing campaign proved that a vocal minority was strongly opposed to any change to Adam Cartwright's marital status. Eventually, producers acquiesced, choosing to keep Adam an eligible bachelor. Roberts may have felt he was too good for the show, but nobody is above a legally binding contract. 

"When I learned of the decision," Browne said. "I had visions of playing a beautiful death scene. I figured they would have to kill me off, and I consoled myself with the thought that I would lose a series, but perhaps win an Emmy."

However, a happier solution occurred that also took into consideration that with Pernell remaining in the show there would be no need to add Guy Williams as a permanent member.

"I could marry Guy instead of Pernell and the whole thing tied together more satisfactorily for all concerned. No one dies—no one is permanently out. And best of all, we would now all be in the family."

While being part of the family sounds nice, in reality, Dayton and Williams never appeared on Bonanza again after the 1964 episode "Triangle."


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13 Comments

Mannixishot 24 days ago
I've seen Kathie Browne on other things and enjoy her performances very much but I honestly wasn't fond of her character as Adam's girlfriend. It wasn't her acting, it was straight up the writing for the character. I've voiced my opinions on imdb reviews for these episodes so won't get into that here besides saying I wasn't fond of the character.
Cougar90 26 days ago
Keep Will + Lose Adam = a better Bonanza.
Bapa1 29 days ago
Any woman that got romantically involved with a Cartwright was automatically doomed.
MrsPhilHarris Bapa1 29 days ago
No kidding.
Bapa1 MrsPhilHarris 28 days ago
Actress: "Hey, if I marry a Cartwright will I become a regular on the show?" Producer: "Ha-ha-Ha! You're kidding right!?"
teire 29 days ago
Glad she dodged that bullet. I enjoyed her Laura Dayton episodes, Joan Blondell played her aunt.
cperrynaples 29 days ago
Did you notice they did a two-fer on Kathie Browne? Yep, she went on to become Mrs. Darrin McGavin!
Irish 29 days ago
I read in years past, articles about Pernell Robert's disdain with the show. I was disappointed in his attitude. Although Bonanza wasn't my favorite western, I did watch it regularly. I'm glad Kathy Browne ended up with Guy Williams in the end. I was also glad when Roberts moved on.
Legadema37 Irish 27 days ago
I agree! Bonanza was a fave of my family & we too, got sick of Robert’s attitude. in Jacksonville, if I remember correctly, he wanted his “own show“ and this kind of thinking was pretty common back en & usually the complaining actors didn’t last long and soon vanished. Roberts went on to do theater & other shows
Irish Legadema37 27 days ago
Yes. I remember Trapper John MD. Thanks for your response!
Mannixishot Irish 24 days ago
I like Pernell and Adam's my favorite Cartwright but I'm honest enough to admit that Pernell should've done something besides just sitting around and complaining. He should've taken notes from Michael Landon and I've given Michael many props on this site for educating himself beyond just being an actor and he was fulfilling many roles on his shows.
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